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and to the extent that you make plans and you devise strategy and you go out and you whip your caucus and you make proposals and then the other side says no and it fails, you look like the failure. this is what democrats are living with now, this is what republicans lived with during the end of the bush administration. and so in terms of just political dynamics and political strategy, it's almost better to be in the position of saying no and being on the filibustering side of the equation. >> when you talk to maybe senators off the record or what are they saying about this? >> i think just as the senator showed when he asked him about republicans winning control of the senate and they're very, even talking to aides, people are very reluctant to go there
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because they think it's a long shot right now. it is a long shot. and it's going to be hard to be in the republican majority with a democratic president. it's like harry sade it's easy to be in the minority especially in the senate because you have a lot of power to be in the majority in the senate, especially republicans, they're going to have to work with democrats, with a democratic president. that blurs the lines for them when they want to create contrast in the next two years, particularly with republicans trying to defeat barack obama in 2012. it will make their job more difficult. >> legislatively, what are the next moments look like leading up to their adjournment? what's going to get done? >> i think we're done. i don't think we're likely to see anything substabtive happen. and i don't think they even stay around much longer than probably this week. but it will be interesting.
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for democrats, they want to continue to seem like they're working. for republicans, they want to seem like they're working even more than members want to get out of here and start campaigning. and i think that pressure is going to be the one that shuts this thing down and everybody gets out of here. >> what about bills to fund the senate issues? >> i don't think they'll get to them. no votes on the tax cuts likely before they leave. they're going to go home and i think a lot of business is going to get pushed to the way. the tax cuts, they're going to have to deal with that then. they want to take it as electoral context. and i just don't think much gets done between now and then. >> take it out of one electoral context and then they face the situation in a lame duck and an old congress voting on these measures. what does that do?
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>> i think a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through whenever they get back from the lame duck. the lame duck can be interesting depending on who is more disappointed. if republicans do not take the house particularly, if they fall much shorter than people expect in the senate, i think you have something of an emboldened democratic calks. particularly with people who are leaving and the ones who have lost. i think you'll see things like the child nutrition bill, thick things like that will get done. but the issue of tax extenders may come back. there's even bold discussion that we may get to some kind of climate or environmental bill. if, however, i think if republicans win i think essentially we'll see basically table setting for the next congress. >> that's it for our time.
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thanks to both of you for being here this week. >> thank you. >> i really underestimated how big the job was, because i've been the republican minority whip. i had not even been the minority leader. so i jumped from minority whip to speaker overnight. and sort of a minority party that nobody thought was going to be in power to leading a wave. biggest one-party increase in an off near in american history. >> knut gingrich on his tenure, the state of american politics today, and the possible 2012 btshl bid. coming up on c-span. >> and formor massachusetts governor mitt romney speaks to the new hampshire republican convention. we'll show you his remarks on road to the white house here on c-span.
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>> for all of the people in the book, there are many mistakes that they might have made in their lives. but moving from the south was not one of them. >> one of the operators of an egg company that was the source of salmonella contaminated eggs that sickened more than 1500 people apologized to a house subcommittee wednesday. the owner of another egg company pleaded the fifth. the committee also heard from two women who contracted salmonella and an official with the food and truck administration. you can see the entire hearing at this portion is about two hours, 40 minutes. this meeting will come to order. today we have a hearing entitled
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the outbreak of salnella in eggs. the chairman emeritus will be recognized for a five minute opening statement. other members of the subcommittee will be recognized for three-minute opening statement. i will begin. before we begin, i'm going to ask unanimous consent the contents of our document binder which will be provided at the witness table, that the documents in there provide that the committee staff let me start over again. i ask unanimous consent that the contents of our document binder be entered into the record provided that the committee staffay redact any information that is business, proprietary, relates to privacy concerns or is law enforcement sensitive. without objection, the documents will be entered into the record. today's hearing entitled the outbreak of salmonella in eggs will mark the 13th hearing of the oversight and investigations subcommittee since january 2007
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regarding food safety issues. we have examined salmonella outbreak associated with peanut products manufactured by the peanut corporation of america which resulted in criminal investigation. additionally we have investigated an ecoli outbreak traced to tainted spinach and other food safety inquiries. today we'll continue our examination into the food safety problems that continue to playing farms, producers and the american consumers. this time around we're dealing with two companies producing eggs in the state of iowa and sold nationwide. 1,608 people were infected with salmonella intertitus from the eggs between may 1st and september 14th. what we learned about the two egg operations in iowa that produced the tainted eggs paint a disturbing picture of egg production in america. when fda inspectors entered plants in august they found facilities riddled with unsanitary and unsafe conditions. according to inspectors'
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preliminary reports, employees working went the handling houses didn't wear or change protective clothing when moving from house to house. live rodents were found in the houses. you can see the eggs tthe left of the sishlg here. we have liquid maneuver oozing out of buildings. there enters another photograph that shows it actually coming out of a doorway. we have dead and decaying chickens found at the sites. live and dead flies too numerous to count. most importantly, positive test results for salmonella were found in both farms including in the feed mill and the water used to wash the eggs. even more alarming, during the course of its investigation, the committee has obtained records that show that write county egg tested positive for salmonella contamination in its iowa facilities prior to the widespread outbreak of the illness. environmental sample reports
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taken in and around the chicken cages between 2008 and 2010 indicate that write county egg received 426 positive results for salmonella including 73 that were potentially positive for salmonella en tir eye tus, the same strain that sickened 1,600 people. perhaps these findings should not be a surprise given the record of the decoster farm operation that owns the wright county egg facilities. in act, decoster farm had so many environmental and safety violations that the state of iowa declared them habitual violators and assessed a total of $219,000 in civil fines. decoster farm is the only entity to receive the habitual violater status from the state of iowa. the work of this subcommittee coupled with the work of the health subcommittee and the foe committee on food safety culminated in the production of hr 2749, the food safety enhancement act. this legislation passed the committee by unanimous consent
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and the u.s. house of representatives on july 30th, 2009. the food safety legislation has been stalled in the senate for more than a year. the provisions contained in our food safety legislation would address several concerns raised by this outbreak. for example, the bill would require new traceback regulations that enable the secretary to identify the history of the food as quickly as possible, but no later than two business days. the food saty legislation would give the fda the needed author authority to issue mandatory recalls and company records. while in this case the two iowa farms did issue voluntary recalls, the fda should not have to rely on the company's good will when the public health is at risk the legislation will also give the fda a guaranteed consistent source of funding through the registration fees. these fees will allow the fda to conduct more inspections, to be proactive, to prevent outbreaks from occurring.
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we will hear testimony from different witnesses on the recall, victims of the outbreak, the manufacturers of the recalled eggs and a representative from the fda. on our first panel we have two victims affected by the salmonella center rye tis, sarp rah lewis and carl la bot toe. sarah is a 30-year-old mother of two who contracted salmonella eating astart at her sister's graduation banquet shechlt ha has been admitted to the hospital twice. she works at her parents' butcher shop which they owned since the 1970s. she's very familiar with local and state regulations as they are subject to constant inspections. carroll is a 77-year-old mother of four and grandmother of four. when carol and her husband took her grandson out to dinner in colorado she contracted salmonella. she's very familiar with egg farms as she was raised in iowa
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on a chicken farm. she spent five days in the hospital suffering from tonguesic shop, severe diarrhea and dehydration. our second panel will consist of os stint decoster and his son, or len bethel, president oft hillendale farms of iowa and duane mass cow, production manager, hillendale farm of iowa. it's my sincere hope these gentlemen will be forthcoming in what they're doing to make sure their eggs are safe for the american people. the third panel will have dr. shaf ski from the food and drug administration. i look forward to hearing from our witnesss today about the progress that has beenade since the outbreak occurred and how we can strengthen the food safety system. we began pushing for reform more than three years ago. our hearings demonstrated the weaknesses in our food safety system and will remain -- ghon
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street the weaknesses in the food safety system that will remain until we enact a food safety bill into law. make no mistake about it, without legislative action, it's not a matter of the but when more lives will be put at risk by another outbreak by today's hearing. this outbreak affected more than 1600 individuals, two of which are here to tell their story today. fortunately no one has died. in each of our 13 food safety hearings, we are reminded that each year approximately 76 million americans become sick for food born disease such as salmonella. 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 deaths will occur in the united states. it's time to give our regulators the tools they need to be proactive in the fight agnst food-borne illnesses and these disease. i next turn to the ranking member of the subcommittee, mr. vur jess of texas for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank you and our witnesses who are here with us
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today for participating in this very important hearing. once again, as you've already articulated, we find ourselv in the middle of a food-borne illness outbreak, this time involving the safety of a food item that we frequently buy, eat and serve to our families. just this morning i viewed pictures taken by the food and drug administration at both company's facilities during the fda inspections. these photos document extremely unsanitary and unsightly conditions including piles of chicken maneuver that was pushed up against an open doorway and leaking outside a laying house, dead flies by the thousands, rodent holes, structural damage to buildings and chicken carcasses. these compani must be able to account for and respond to these photos. i'm also anxious to respond to the food and drug administration if the public can take comfort in the fact that these observations are not normal. i wonder if the fda will be able to answer this question considering that they have not
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inspected any other egg production facilities be hides these two in quite some time. to date the centers for disease control has reported over 1500 illnesses are likely to be associated with salmonella in eggs. i want to thank our first panel of witnesses, both victims of this outbreak for appearing today to share your stories. the outbreak of salmonella in eggs is unique in that the salmonella contamination is not from the shell but the interior of the egg. test results indicate the laying hens themselves were affected and the hens passed the contamination through the inside of the eggs. one very important fact about the investigation, perhaps an indication that th hearing is held before we have all the facts is that the ultimate source of the salmonella contamination is not yet certain. concerns about the feed given to the young chickens and the unsanitary conditions of the suspect farms have been raised. i hope that the testimony provided today will move us closer to understanding the original source of the
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contamination and how to prevent it from ever happening again. by early august, the traceback investigations completed by the cdc, fda and state partners dicated a common source of contamination from a sij farm owned by the decoster family. on august 13, wrooilt county egg issued a voluntary recall of approximatel380 million. on august 19, hillendale, owned by mr. orlando bethel issued a voluntary recall of eggs after being suspected as a potential source of contamination. responsible corporate actors are crucial in maintaining a safe and reliable food instry. companies must observe good manufacturing agricultural practices. the documents and subsequent photographs obtained by this committee raise serious questions about whether both of these companies re consistently maintaining such good practices. particular interest are the d k dockmentes that show the test results done at decoster farms. the contamination is frequent.
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72 of environmtal sponges were tested for salmonella and only eight were negative. experts who have spoken to staff have indicated that environmental samples that turn up positive for salmonella may be expected on a farm and do not necessarily indicate that the food end product is contaminated, but i want to know, if these findings warrant cause for alarm and become troublesome, if positive results become a pattern and are not rectified. i want to ask the decosters about these tests and what the company gleaned from this information. i'm interested in what the fda has to say about this as well. other documents obtained by the committee include numerous sanitation reports completed by the department of agriculture and marketing services. some of the hazard plans, unsatisfied factoryonditions, unsatisfied factory sanitary conditions an array of conditions at ight county egg over a number of years. i would like mr. decoster to comment and explain these
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records. although the food and drug administration has said that eggs have historically been a high-risk food product. the fda did not inspect these facilities prior to the outbreak. during the investigations discussed, the investigators noted that they all failed. tests conducted in august at wrooilt county egg were positive for the same and other strains of salmonella. these were taken from maneuver pits, chicken feeds and other surfaces. i want an up to date report explaining where the exact matches of salmonella to the outbreak strain that caused human illnesses were found and w the companies and food and drug administration interpret these results. it's important for the fda as well as the industry to work cooperatively internally with other federal agencies and with health and agricultural departments to reduce the number of and help prevent food borne
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illness. a new egg rule became effective this july that addressed several concerns of this outbreak. it took the food and drug administration over ten years to act on this issue, illustrating a systemic bureaucratic weaknesses. the future fda should not be a reactive body. it should be proactive. mr. chairman, i support conducting this investigation and holding the hearing. i ve a concern that we're not always done in the most bipartisan and useful manner. september 9th i sent a letter to you stating that i thought the ceo of the fda, the commissioner of the fda, dr. margaret hamburg should be here to offer the agency's official testimony. she and the obama administration have repeatedly stated that food safety and the resources of the fda is a top priority and must be taken seriously, quickly addressed. in the 110th congress the commissioner was here four times and testified on food safety. the majority declined to invite
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a representative from the united states department of agriculture to testify even though the committee sent a document request to the agency, held a briefing and received thousands of pages of relevant information concerning their role in the regulation of these farms and this outbreak. staff has obtained and reviewed relevant and revealing usda documents, including audit reports, pre operative sanitation reports. in an observation from wright county egg, this hearing would be more productive if a usda official were here to answer questions and perhaps the number one question, why didn't you say anything to the food andrug administration? the ultimate goals of this hearing are good and i support the food safety legislation this house has passed in 2009. i'm eager for the senate t move on this important issue. mr. chairman, i thank you for your forbearance and i yield back the balance of my time. >> mr. waxman, chairman of the full committee for an opening
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statement, please. >> thank you very much chairman stupak. before i address the concerns of this hearing, i want to tank you for a record of four years in diligence in pursuing issues of food safety. your work stands out as a model of congressional oversight and investigation and you have illustrated very clearly the need for stronger food safety laws. you've had 13 hearings in the last four years. you ed et cadded the members of this committee and the american people about glaring deficiencies at all levels of our food safety network. today we're going to examine two of the nation's largest egg producers, wright county egg and hillendale farms of iowa. they've been asked to appear today because evidence that they produced eggs in filthy conditions that caused food poisoning in thousands of consumers across the country. the decoster family which owns wright county egg and raised
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eggs for hillendale farms in iowa has known about safety problems at these facilities for decades, yet they continue to persist. over 30 years ago eggs from a farm operated by the decoster family killed nine people and sickened 500 in new york. 20 years ago, maryland ordered the decosters to stop selling eggs in the state because of the contamination problem. as the committee revealed last week, environmental testing at decoster facilities over the last three years tested positive dozens of times for potential contamination by a dangerous form of salmonella, yet despite these warnings, the decoster facilities were operated with a shocking level of disregard for basic food safety controls. food safety inspectors from fda
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finally wentnside the facilities in ugust. as a photograph i'd likto have displayed shows, they saw decaying corporations of row debts and unsealed rodent holes along the walls of a when house. conditions were so bad inne facility that the wall of the barn was bursting open because of the excessive maneuver. decoster farms have had warning aftewarning, yet they continue to raise chicken in slovenly conditions and to make millions of dollars by selling contaminated eggs. the risks are real. our rst two witnesses today are ms. sarah lewis and ms. carol la bot toe. ms. lewis ate contaminated eggs while celebrating her sister's college graduation. ms. la bot toe was sickened when going to dinner with her
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grandson. they were both hospitalized and gravely ill. i commend both of them in speaking out todaynd being at the hearing. unfortunately their horrific experiences were shared by many others. the egg that is are the subject of today's hearing sickened over 1600 people in 11 states. this hearing will make abundantly clear that our food safety law need a thorough overha overhaul. the committee on the house passed a bipartisan bill last year that would protect consumers from these abuses. the house bill would require farms to report to fda when they find their unsafe food has entered the food supply. it would give the fda the clear authority to access records on egg farms during investigations. it would empower the fda to mandate recalls when firms do not comply voluntarily.
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these are the kinds of tools that will ensure the safety of the food we consume. yet, as we hold this hearing today, one senator, a lone senator, tom coburn is holding this vital safety legislation hostage in the senate. his actions are preventing the fda from strengthening its oversight and enforcement programs. in fact, they're preventing the senate of the united states from debating the issue, offering amendments and making decisions about the legislation. and i have a plea for senator coburn. for the sake of ms. lewis, ms. lobato and hundreds of thousands of americans poisoned by salmonella every year, please lift your hold and allow this vital safety legislation to move forward. we're going have some tough questions today for jack decoster, the ceo of the wright county egg and or len bethel, the ceo of hillendale farms, but
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i do want to thank them for appearing here voluntarily and for cooperating with our committee's investigation. i also want to thank fda deputy commissioner dr. joshua scharf stein for testifying been us today. our goal is to make american families safer. that's why this hearing is so important and why we must reform our food safety system so that we can eradicate or ateast reduce food borne illnesses. imagine, the fda cannot get information from these farms, they don't have the ability to subpoena it. they have to be given to them voluntarily. they can't issue a warrant -- they have to try to issue a warrant to get information. there's no obligation by these farms to report to the fda even when they know there's food
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safety problems. this is unthinkable. that's why the house unanimously -- this committee unanimously approved the bill and the house overwhelmingly adopted it. now we want the senate to act. let's don't go home from congress without passing food safety legislation. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. waxman. mr. lie door of for opening statement please. three minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman, ranking member burgess. thank you for holding this hearing on the outbreak of sal nell land eggs as the incidence of contaminated food products are a serious concern for public health. i'm glad the two witnesses who were infected by the eggs are here today and able to be with us. this hearing is also a great concern to me because egg production is citical to my state, ohio, which is the second largest egg-producing state in
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the nation. many of you have heard me say i represent the largest manufacturing drakt in the state of ohio but also the largest agricultural district in the state of ohio. i'm also home to one of the top two egg-producing counes in the nation. when you look at the egg pros duesed in my district, it has an economic impact of $102.4 million. ohio is also one of the ten states with an egg quality assurance program with the aim to min niz salmonella in eggs. first of all, i think it is important to remember that the purpose of this hearing is to get the facts. while we have the fda form 483 with its general observations about the conditions at the wright county egg and the hillendale farms operations in iowa that are being investigated, we don't have the esblishment in the report which will provide more clear
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answers. furthermore, i'm disappointed that the fda commissioner is not here to testify nor is a representative from the usda. we need to get these answers and hear what went wrong fromhese producers so the industry can learn from this recall. we do not want the public to lose confidence in our egg producers. several of the egg producers in my district are fourth generation farmers and have been committed to producing a safe product for years. if we have overburdening regulation that is are placed out there, many of these farmers may be forced out of business. unfortunately preventing a fifth generation from being able to farm. the safety and security of our nation's food supply is of the utmost importance to me. mr. chairman, i want to thank you very much for the opportunity and i look forward to hearing the testimony from our witnesses on the panel. mr. chairman, i'd also li to submit in the record from the ohio poultry association a document on egg facts in ohio.
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>> without objection, that will be made part of your opening statement and we'll receive the document. >> i yield back. >> mr. braley from iowa for an opening statement, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. some of my earliest memories are walking into my grandparents' when houses to collect eggs. growing up in iowa you couldn't avoid commercials promoting the incredible, edible egg. we ate them fried, poached, hard boiled, over hard, sunny side up, scrambled in only let's. that was just for breakfast. we truly believe that eggs were nature's nearly most perfect food. growing up in iowa, i don't remember my mom buying eggs in the supermarket. we bought them from the farms. we died them at easter and threw them on halloween and we ever, ever imagined they could cause
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life threatening illness and kill us. that's why the recent revelations of an incomprehensible half billion egg recallriginating in my home state was so disturbing. so why are we here? first and foremost we need to examine how and why this happened, to ensure the safety of american families and prevent this type of tragedy from ppening in the future. second, we need to identify and eliminate weaknesses in our state and federal food safety enforcement system and take strong measures to hold wrong doers accountable and protect good representations of producers who consistently play by the rules and supply safe food of a high quality at a reasonable price. the economic impact of egg producers in iowa is indisputable. iowa is america's number one egg producer bay country while yet economic impact is no trump card when lives are at stake. like many americans i'm disturbed by the increasing number of food-borne illnesses
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in the united states. these incidents all raise important questions about the safety and security of our nation's food supply. as an eye want, i'm offended some in the g stlee are suggest that consumersare somehow responsibleorgetting sick because they didn't properly cook their eggs. now is the time for accountability, not blame shifting. as an iowan i was dpus gusted to read reports about live mouse, infestations of flies, mountains of maneuver and other unsanity conditions linked to the largest salmonella outbreak of its kind in the united states. it's clear that changes need to be made to our food system to provid assurces to parents that the food they feed to their families is safe. the house passed food safety legislation last year. you've heard about it. e the fda to order mandatory food recalls, impose fines for food safety violations and require more
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frequent food silt inspections. it would also give the fda access to company records in the case of an emergency. these are important first steps to make sure our food supply is safe. we need to be doing a much better job of protectg american families from unsafe food. every four years, mr. chairman, people come to my state for the presidential caucuses and see our magnificent gold-domed capitol. yet few people take that t time to go inside the rotunda. my favorite saying in that rotunda is from the greek lawmaker solon who said the ideal state, that in which an injury done to the least of its citizens is an injury done to all. until we get serious about uniform federal food safety practices in this country, we are far from becoming that ideal state. and until conmers feel as safe and secure buying eggs in their neighborhood supermarket as i felt in my grandparents' when house, egg producers in iowa and
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across the country have their work cut out for them. i yield back. >> thank you for your opening statement. you want on the record that you threw eggs at halloween? ms. degette, opening stament, please? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i want to add the chairman's thanks to you. the 13 hearings i think i've been sitting with you mr. chairman for every single one of those hearings, everything from spinach to peanut butter to jalapeno peppers to meat to nuts, pretty much the entire american diet has been under scrutiny the last few years. i have one question an the question i have is when is the senate going to pass the very fine food safety bill this house passed over a year ago? i don't think it's any excuse that one senator can hold up the bill, but if that is the excuse, then i would add to chairman
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waxman's demand that senator coburn released his hold on this bill. but beyond that, i think the senate should stay in session until they pass this bill. the reason is, if we don't, we're going to be sitting here every six months just like we have been for the last four years. and the problem with that, it's not just about us passing the legislation. it's about people like the witnesses who are sitting here today. ms. lewis and mrs. lobato. i want to welcome all of you and say how glad i am you're putting a human face on this again. i particularly have to welcome the lobatos because they've been family friends of my family's for many, many years. we won't say how long because we'll have to reveal our ages. thank you for coming to talk to us about what's going on here. you know, we can fix this problem. this egg outbreak which is outrageous could have been minimized -- i mean aside from
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the conditions at the when houses and everything else, if this bill had been law, several things in this legislation could have been mitigated this problem. the -- it took three months before this voluntary recall and there were thousands of americans that fell ill before we determined what the source of contamination was. there are three components to the legislation this this committee and the house passed that are now in the senate bill that would have prevented this. number one, under our legislation the fda would be able to get the records to show where the contamination came from. number two, traceability. this was a provision that i worked to get into the legislation which would allow contaminated products to be quickly traced from the field or in this case the when house to the fork and that would greatly decrease the amount of time it would have taken for us to
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identify theource of the contamination. and the third thing is, the fda would have now mandatory recall authority. so if the producers themselves didn't recall the product, then the fda could have. all of these things together would have applied in this situatn if this bill had become law. so frankly, mr. chairman, we can't wait until after the election. we can't wait until the next congress starts. we need to make this bill law now. i would urgevery single person who is here or who is watching this to call their senators and urge them to enact this law before we leave. >> the gentle lady yields back. mr. doyle for a opening statement? >> thank you. i'll be brief. i want to thank you for holding this hearing and also what please your it's been to serve with you on this panel. we'll miss your presence next year. my thanks go out to th
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witnesses for agreeing to testify, especially our first panel, ms. lewis and ms. lobato. i remember growing up and learng from my mom how to properly cook eggs because you neveknew if the heartbreak of salmonella would come out. it took years for me to find out that salmonella weren't the people in the eggs. even though consumers know they have to cook them the right way, people have a reasonable expectation that egg producers are doing all they can to identify and fix issues in production that could cause their hens to get salmonella and pass it onto the eggs. it looks like it didn't happen here. i look forward to learning why. why do companies with a record of prior violations not ensure their facilities were clean and free of rodents? why did positive tests for salmonella not cause the producers to go into overdrive and clean up their premises. why did those eggs go to market to restaurants and consumer's
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homes where they could get sick. it's a blessing there were no reported deaths. i hope we can learn today to make sure there wasn'ta next time. next time we may not be so lucky. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses. with that, mr. chairman, i'll yield back. >> ms. christian sen for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. here we go again, unfortunately at another hearing on food contamination. thank you for the quick response in holding the day's hearing and the recent outbreak in salmonella in eggs which highlights another crack in our food safety system. in late august the food and drug administration officials reported positive findings of salmonella, in chicken feed sent to both write county egg and hillendale farms. more than 550 million eggs from the two eggs were recalled in august after being linked to as
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many as 1300 cases of salmonella poisoning. i want to join my colleagues in thanking some of those harmed by this outbreak for being here to testify. fda indicated contaminated feed was a source of the outbreak but possibly not the only source. subsequent on-site inspections revealed grossly unsanitary conditions. a common threat in the numerous hearings we've held on food safety or the lack thereof is the inaquate and fgmented regulation of food in this country. as in this case, there's oen a long history of noncompliance with safety and sanitation measures resulting iproblems. wright county farms, the company slofd in this outbreak has been associated with outbreaks since the early 80s. in the case of eggs, the ag department oversees chickens and grades chickens for their quality. the fda is responsible for safety of eggs on the shelves. this is just another example of
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the bureaucratic gaps in regulang food safety that continue to put consumerst risk. as you've heard, last year the house passed hr 2749, the food safety enhancement act in response to what we consider a crisis. among other regulatory changes this bill would give the fda the power mandatory recall of diseased food as well as oversight and access to the safety plans that food service facilities establish as well as tests conducted to measure safety and inspection records. until these new regulations are in place, we won't be able to strengthen the food safety. and i do realize fda did put new regulations in place a little too late to really stop this outbreak. but i hope today's hearing will further emphasize the need for the senate to pass this bill. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank you. mr. marquee for opening statement, please? >> thank you, mr. chairman for holding this hearing.
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thanks to chairman waxman for his leadership in bringing this issue out into the open and to our witnesses, we wish you all a full and speedy recovery from this debilitating and life threatening experience. we can all easily agree that amicans should be able to have their eggs over easy without having to worry that the eggs will make them queasy. but more than a thousand people have been severely sickened by eggs laced with salmonella sin the eggs first entered the food chain in may. more than half a billion eggs have been voluntarily recalled since august. as we have learned the conditions found in the facilities connected to these eggs were horrific, like something out of upton sinclair's "the youngal." it is my fear that this recall may not be the end of the store richlt there are many egg-producing facilities in other states with strong
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corporate ties to the companies responsible for the iowa recall that have not yet been inspected by the fda. and with senator tom coburn's recent announcement of operation to the senate food safety bill the fda may well continue to be denied the strong enforcement tools it needs to crash down on unsafe practices that the house passed last year leaving the corporate fox in charge of the when house indefinitely. i know senator burn is a republican. i know the republicans in the senate are trying to stop any legislation from passing. this is a public health imperative. there must be some exception for republicans in the senate when it goes to the health of millions of americans. they must release this bl so we can protect millions of families. this past july the fda's new egg rule went into effe imposing additional safety requirements on large egg producers and
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ensuring that there will be more frkda inspections at the facilities. so the jury is still out as to whether the iowa facilities implicated inhis infestation represent just a few rot en eggs or whether the safety of this country's egg supp is more like humpty dumpty, shattered and in nee of full-scale reconstruction. according to reports, companied owned or operated by one of our witnesses today have a decades' long record of public health, labor and environmental offenses. decoster egg and feed facilities in maine and other states have ooh long history of being found to be responsible for salmonella infectio, dumping piles of dead chickens above ground, animal cruelty, worker safety violations and other problems. instead of walking on egg shells to supply with seat state and federal regulations, the hard-boiled corporate executives in iowa kept facilities from
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inspections that showed that ultimately they were overflowing with maneuver and infested by rodents and flies. my home state of massachusetts gets many of the eggs from the maine facilities tied to mr. decoster. lit important for us in massachusetts, in new england new england, to know whether we are at a threat as well. thank you, mr. chairman, for having this hearing. >> thank you, mr. markey. >> mr. chairman, may i ask for unanimous consent re. >> yes. >> i'd like to to entere from senator coburn. he's not blocking the comment. senator reid's comments that coburn is blocking the bill are false. >> i object. i don't believe that's an accurate statement. i would object to it going in
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the record. >> there's objection. it will not be made part of the record. if you want to submit something later, mr. burgess, to supplement your testimony, i'm sure we can work with it. but right now nothing is going to be entered in the record. that concludes the opening statement by members of the subcommittee. i want to call our first panel of witnesses. our first panel is ms. sarah lewis from freedom, california and ms. carol lobato from littleton, colorado. i would ask you to employees come forward and take a seat at the witness table. >> it's the policy of the do either of you wish to be represented by counsel that's >> no. advised by counsel during testimony. do either of you wish to be
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represented by counsel? >> no. >> you both answered no, you don't wish to be represented by counsel. therefore, i'll ask you to rise and raise your right hand and take the oath. do you swear or affirm the testimony you're about to give to be the truth, the wholeruth and nothing but the truth in the matter pending before this committee? >> i . >> let the record reflect that the witnesses applied in the affirmative. they're under oath. we look forward to your opening statement. ms. lewis, i'lltart with you. if you'd like to pull that mic forward and press the button, a green light should go on. there we go. ready to go. thank you. thank you for being here. >> good afternoon. thank you chairman stupak and chairman waxman and committee members. i'm honored to be here and speak to you about my experience with salmonella poisons that i got from the recent egg recall. my name is sarah lewis. i'm 30 years old. i am a mom, a wife and a proud
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daughter of a small business owner that abides by all of our local and state regulations. i have two beautiful daughters, haley 7, kendall, 4. i have a wonderful house band who served our husband proudly as a marine, chris lewis. not only did this experience affect me, it affected my whole family. my sister stacy also got salmonella poisons from the eggs. the night we ate the custard start was at my sister's graduation banquet. my whole family was there, husband, dad, grandma, sister and boyfriend. we were there celebrating this amazing achievement from my sister not suspecting that that night would change our lives for a very long time. my sister and i look back at th night, what if my grandma or one of my daughters would have eaten the start? they probably would have died. knowing how sick we were scares the heck out of us. the night after the banquet i
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started having severe abdominal cramping. my husband told me to go l down. during the night i woke up vomiting. i was so embarrassed to have to ask my husband for help. my mom who lives next door came and took one look at me. if you know me, all i wanted to do was stay home and try and feel better. the next day my mom took me to urgent care where i was told they would give me a shot to help me stop throwing up. if i was able to keep water down, in 20 minutes i could go home. 21 minutes later i was being admitted into the hospital for what would turn out to be the first of two long stays. when i was admitted for admitte time i spent 12 hours in the er so sick they were scared to move me. they thought they were going to have to do emergency bowel surgery because the ct scan showed bowels so inflamed and so sick, i was put in icu. i was so sick and so dehydrated and in so much pain i could not see straight. while in icu i started to
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develop severe tachycardia and was moved to the critical care heart unit three days. during that time i had to go through things i never want to talk about again. i was so mortified. when i was discharged, i was so excited. this meant i would be able to go to my daughter's preschool graduation that night. this may seem like a small thing to many of you but meant the world to me. i thought great, i can start the healing process and get back to being a mom, a wife and a daughter. boy, was i wrong. approximately two and a half weeks later still sick as a dog, i called my doctor and when i got to the office he took one look at me and told me i was going back into the hospital. for one moment you can imagine two little girls faces when i have to tell them mommy is going back into the hospital. it was the hardest thing i ever had to do. it was devastating for any 7 or 4-year-old kid. when i was re-admitted i was so dehydrated they had to insert a pick line into my arterial vain in my right biceps.
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i was so scared. i was about to have a line inserted into my heart. i proceeded to spend five more days in the hospital with my girls crying and screaming every time they had to leave me. i truly do not know what i would have done without my family and friends during this time. when i was released for the second time i was sure i was on the mend. wrong again. i developed a severe infection called. from all the antibiotics and from being in the hospital. it causes severe diarrhea and cramping, as though i didn't have this already i had to be on antibiotics every six hours for the next 14 days again. and all during this, i found out that the salmonla was still present and raging in my body. this was devastating news to my family and myself. i still have severe crapping, diarrhea, fevers and the stress and fear that the salmonella is present in my body. every day, when i leave to go to work or even just to the grocery store my youngest daughter looks at me and starts crying. it just breaks my heart.
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at this whole time i am trying to figure out what has caused my poisoning. one morning my dad is reading the newspaper and an article about my sister and i we were part of the recall. as i started reading about the egg compans it causes my stomach to turn. my family owns a retail butcher shop and as we go through weekly state inspections and quarterly county inspections, we have to maintain and uphold a standard that we are very proud of. we are rated number one butcher shop in all of california for cleanliness and sanitation. to think my sister and i got sick froa company that does not care about their regulations and quality is beyond appalling to me and my family. i do not come today just for me and my sister. i come for every man, woman and child who has gotten sickened by wright county eggs and other producers who did not consider the repercussions of their actions. i wish i could say this would
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never ppen again. please consider changing your fda policies to closely monitor the egg industry. thank you for your time and listening to my story. sarah lewis. thank you, miss lewis. miss lobato, your testimony please. turn on that mike and pull it closer to your person there. >> good morning, chairman waxman, chairman stew stupak. >> and members of the committee. >> pull the mike up a little bit more. >> thank you for inviting me to washington to share my story. i hope that by doing so together we can make our dinner tables and our entire food system safer for all of us. my name is carol lobato. i live in littleton, colorado. i am 77 yrs old. and today have been married to my husband for 54 years.
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we are retired and blessed with fourhildren and grandchildren. ed is a world war ii veteran and awarded the bronze star and purple heart. for his services in okinawa. my story began the evening of july 10th of this year. the night that ed and i took our grandson drew to the fort restaurant in morrisson, colorado. the fort is an upscale restaurant that serves wild game and other exotic dishes. the fort was the restaurant that hosted president clinton and the other world leaders for the summit of the dinner in 1997. one of the ite that we ordered that night was an appetizer of rattlesnake cake. all of us tasted the dish and none of us particularly liked it.
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the next afternoon, i felt very sick. at the beginning i stted to shake and experienced chills. then came waves of vomiting and explosive diarrhea. my fever rose to 102. later the doctors called this septic shock. ed rushed me to the emergency room. there doctors administered several tests including chest x-rays, cat scan, blood, stool and urine samples. they gave me iv hydration and sent me home after several hours d told me to return if the symptoms did not improve. the next day, i went to see our family doctor as i was experiencing diarrhea, stomach cramps, dizziness and weakness. he examined me and sent me to
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swedish hospital in inglewood. the ride to the hospital was very unpleasant. i was quite sick. my electrodes were depleted, my potassium culture comes back as positive for salmonella. bacteria that was both in my blood stream and my intestine. since i take medation for rheumatoid arthritis, which compromises my immune system, i was particularly at risk for an infectious bacteria like salmonella. the infection wiped me out to the pointwhere i was unable to function. i could not even get out of bed without help. i remained at the hospital for an agonizing four nights, five
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days, before i was finally discharged to come home. the salmonella infection is not over for me. i have lost my stamina. i often experience indigestion and it is difficult for me to enjoy rtain foods. i feel very tired and require rest during the day. i lost eight pounds in the hospital, which was the only plus of this ordeal. my doctors told me that i almost certainly would have died without aggressive intervention. ed and drew, our grandson, were also ill, but their condition was not as serious as mine. the cdc and the jefferson county department of health later determined that the rattlesnake cake that we consumed at the fort, was the source of our illness. through a trace back procedure, investigators found that the eggs used in the rattlesnake cake had not been properly
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cooked. they were from the wright county, iowa, farm. wright county egg farm in iowa. the salmonella found in my cultures was the exact dna match to the salmonella found in the egg farm. the cdc has recently published reports that at least 1500 others in the country have also suffered from the identical strain of salmonella found in the contaminant egg -- contaminated eggs from the wright county eggs and the hillandale farm. the fda has now inspected the farms and found several violations. the published inspection report shows the following -- chicken manure piles four to eight feet high in the hen houses. live wild birds not chickens, flying around the hen houses. rodent bureaus along the base
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board of the hen houses, liquid manure seeping through the concrete foundation, standing water in the chicken manure pit, loose chickens walking through the manure piles and laying their eggs inside. 31 live mice observed in the hen house. live and dead flies too numerous to count inside the hen houses, 65 unsealed rodent holes in the walls of the hen house. these findings are shocking to me, not only as a consumer, but because i have personal experience with chickens and eggs. you see, i grew up on an iowa farm. i was one of five girls and i shared the responsibility for doing the work and the chores that went with the family farm. at included raising chickens from little chicks to the time they were ready for market, and
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for the eggs that we gathered and sold. our family -- our farm never looked the way these two farms looked. and have been described. we never had any problems because we kept our farm clean, took proper care of our chickens, and did things the correct way. three years ago, this country suffered a horrible salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated peanut butter that sickened over 700 nationwide. last year, this country was struck by another peanut butter salmonella outbreak that sickened 700, killing nine. tragically. both times survivors like me come before this committee asking for help. but this time, i am the one asking for you on behalf of myself and my family and 1500
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others who were sickened. please make our food supply safer. pass legislati that provides funding and more inspectors so that these companies keep us safe. pass legislation that requires testing of products before they leave the factory. pass legislation that rewards companies who do the right thing and punish those who refuse to do so. because if we don't, we will all be here again. thank you respectfully, carol lobato. >> thank you. and thank you both for your testimony. thank you for coming he to washington, d.c., traveling here with your families. and i deeply regret you've suffered as part of this massive outbreak of salmonella, but your testimony is really helped us, telling members of congress your story but the american people and help us and hopefully move
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the legislation a you've heard so much this morning and afternoon. ask you a couple questions if i may. in the binder there's tab number 16. mr. waxman and i showed photographs that were taken by federal public health officials in the course of their inspection of the egg facilities. and miss lobato you mentioned them in your testimony as you've had some experience with farms and that. when you look at these photos, what goes through your mind about the conditions of these farms? miss lobato? >> this is a deplorable situation here. filth. >> you said in your testimony you said, maybe we should consider rewarding companies for doing things right so we d't have the food outbreaks. isn't the fact that a consumer would put confidence in let's say a wght farm or hillandale farm, isn't that enough reward?
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we shouldn't have to reward people to produce in this case eggs in a proper, sanitary safe condition, should thwe? >> they should all be safe coming from the farm. >> okay. miss lewis, anything you want to add on the photographs or anything? >> it's appalling to me. my family owns a retail shop and when i show pictures to people of our facility, they're amazed a at how clean it is and w give tours of the whole place. we're not afrd to show people around. we don't have anything that is appalling as this. and -- >> in your butcher shop do you have to -- you have a plan to take care of pests and rodents? >> absolutely. >> yes. >> cannot have them around? >> absolutely. we have strict regulations and guidelines that we have to abide by. we have weekly maintenance services that come out and tend to that so it is never been a problem. we've never had an infestation of any kind in our facility and my father, howard, has owned it
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since 1970 and he took it over from his dad and my dad and m have always upheld the standards that we are proud of and like i said, we give customers tours. we will show them our facility. we areot afraid to show what we do to everybody who wants to see it. >> you find the inspections at your level in your butcher shop over burdspensome? >> no. >> too much government regulation. >> we are state and we are quarterly county inspected. you know, we don't worr about it. they come in and the last thing we got written up for was because sobody didn't have a hat on. you know, our plant is so clean that when they come in, they say it's honestly a pleasure to come into our facility and they actually want people to come to our plant and view our plant and how my dad has everything, tiles, stl, and he has everything to a certain standard. >> so in areas like food safety, government regulation in your esmation as owning a butcher
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shop is good? >> repeat the question. >> sure. government regulation, we hear so much government shouldn't be in our lives get them out of there, we don't need government regulations. in your personal experience has it been helpful to you in your business business? >> absolutely. if we did not have regulations on our facility tre's other butcher shops and if they didn't uphold to a certain standard then the product that's out there, is not going to be of a certain level. and if it's not, then this is what's going to happen and this is not acceptable. >> all of our hearings we hear it's always young people, older citizens, or people with compromised immune system susceptible to food poisoning whether e. coli or salmonella or listeria. you don't seem to fit any one of those categories. >> i actually have a compromised immune system. i have asthma and been on steroids on and off for a long period of time due to my asthma and lungs and so they figured that due to my compromised immune system that's why it hit
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me so hard. and, you know, i actually had heart surgery wh i was 18. so i have a long history of health trouble and so when this came into my system it just overpowered my whole system and it took over. i am still not feeling well. to think that anybody has to go through this is -- sickening. >> are you off your medication now? >> no. i laugh. i have, no offense, i have a little old lady box of medicine at i take every day and, you know, i don't have a choice. you know, i'm on five to ten different medications and i've lost 30 pounds and my sick joke is okay you can cure my salmonella in 30 more pounds. you know what i mean. it's not funny. it's -- i don't want to be on all these medications to try to keep my immune system up. it's -- it's not acceptable for supposedly someone who's young and 30 and healthy, it's not okay.
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>> miss lobato you've completely recovered from your experience? >> i can't say that, no. >> okay. >> there is a lot of things i can't eat. just really hard to digest and if you have heart burn and upset stomach and so forth. >> we're glad you're still here, glad you had your 54th wedding anniversary and celebrating it with us. ed, thank you for your service to our country. let me yield to mr. burguess for questions, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you to both o y for sharing what are very compelling stories with us. if you heard in my opening statemt i referenced some of the surveillance cultures that were done at the egg farm 72 swabs and only eight were negative for salmonella. now, obviously to me at least, i
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spent time on a farm as a youngster and my family was involved in the meat business on my mother's side. i would think that's an outliar. we'll get a chance to ask the egg manufacturers directly, but when you look at the oversight, miss lewis, you suggested that there is several places that regulate you, but you said those are state and county? >> yes. >> so no usda, no fda coming in to your shop? >> we are not a federally regulated plant. we're a state regulated plant. and so theeat that does come in to us, is usda inspected. absolutely. >> butust the notion that you would have that many positive tes, and no surveillance by the federal agency responsible for ascertaining egg safety, i mean that seems a little bit large, does it not? >> absolutely. if there is supposed to be a
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federal agent on premises at all times that's his job as well as the owner's to make sure and to uphold those standards and he's supposed to be walking around and checking everything and that's why he's there. that's why they are a federal regulated plant. there is reasons why you have a federal agent in your building mandating it. there's reasons. and obviously those reasons were not met. >> miss lobato,our experience with the egg business when you had the opportunities to observe it up close and personal,ou never saw anything like we were -- these astonishing photographs? >> not at all. >> shared with us this morning? that's sort of my recollection as well, though i will confess to you, i've never spent time on a commercial farm so i don't know the context in which to place these photographs. >> our chickens would be what would be called free range n. they walked everywhere. they were all over. >> i am only buying cage-free
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free range fregs this point on after seeing those photographs. they're fairly dramatic. miss lewis you became sick in the early part of july. the recall started august 13th, do i have the time frame correct there? >> the banquet was saturday, may 29th. >> you were ill in may? >> yeah. >> miss lobato, your exposure was later? >> july 10th. >> unfortunately when you look at some of these things on the recalls we did tomatoes a couple years ago with salmonella, it does take time. to either of you does that seem unreasonable that time span from may 27th to august 13th or july 2nd to august 13th when the recall was affected? does that seem like an unreasonable period of time? tough question to ask you. you both suffered with the consequences. >> from my point of view, you know, when you're eating a dinner at a banquet you have ten
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things on your plate from butter to chicken to things and on your salad, you as well have several different things. you have to try to figure out if it came from what's on your dinner plate, your salad plate, appetizer. i think that it would take time to try to pinpoint where it came from. >> when were you questioned in the sequence of this about the source of your illnessr did it just come up from the dna testing? >> it came up from the dna teing and i read a newspaper article and i called the -- >> you sought them out rather than -- >> i did. i had to call the county nurse and be like is this me in the newspaper article and my sister? is this -- am i that person? and she's like, i said, am i? she said yeah. that's how i found out. i had to seek out the information. >> i want to thank both of you for being with us. miss lewis, from the perspective of the former practicing physician, the complication you suffered, one of the most fearsome things you can undergo is the consequence of antibiotic
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erapy. had patients with that during my professional lifetime and it is an ordeal and a memorable one. mr. chairman,ust before i yield, thanks to our witnesses, before i yield back the balance of my time i want to read, if majority leader reid -- >> right now we've had objections. >> i still ha control -- i still control the time m chairman. >> mr. bur gl sneeze you've been directed that statement was not -- >> legislation is a matter of life and death. he should bring to the floor. >> cease. your time has expired. >> as majority leader he sets the schedule. i do not. >> mr. chairman, i just have to say i do not recall -- this is a bipartisan issue. i voted with you on the dang bill. i worked with you on the dang bill. now, that you have conducted [ inaudible ] conducted the hearing in this fashion. we have to sit here and listen to you as a member of the senate
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[ inaudible ] by members of your side when he's not the problem. yeah, he may become a problem senator reid brings it to the floor but senator reid -- he is not the problem. so again, i just -- >> mr. burguess. >> i don't understand why you would turn what is a bipartisan effort into a partisan affair. >> mr. burguess, legislation out of this committee because of the work of many people on this committee, the full committee, democrats and republicans, is bipartisan. and we passed that bill july of 2009. after three years of work by this committee. and yeah, we're a little frustrated that senate, one person, can put a hold on a bill. >> that is senat reid for the record. senator reid the majority leader. >> and our legislation does not move. you have a beef, take it up with senator coburn, maybe we can move our legislation. with that let me turn it to mr. braillely for questions, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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and miss lobato, i'm very pleased to hear you had a lovely childhood growing up in iowa. did any of the comments i made in my opening statement ring true with you? >> absolutely. >> now one of the things that struck me about both of your testimony, was that neither one of you prepared the food that made you sick. and that illustrates one of the challenges we have been trying to face on this committee, which is we have a hodge-podge of state and federal food safety regulations that impose different requirements on different egg producers depending upon where their facilities are located for making some stridesased upon the recent regulation that the fda passed, regulating egg production facilities, but both of you are the living examples of how consumers are at risk through no fault of their own because of cooking techniques that they have no control over.
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now, one of the things i want to talk to you about is the mandatory recall authority because as you heard, our committee began pushing for reform of the food safety system for youears and this is the 13t hearing this subcommittee has conducted on food safety in the last four years. our committee authored and successfully passed hr 2749, the food safety enhancement act and included in that legislati as a provision that would give the fda much needed increased authority to issue mandatory recalled tainted food products. i'm going to ask both you have would it surprise you toearn the fda lacks the authority to issue a mandatory recall? >> that's surprising. >> yeah. and while the two iowa farms in question did issue voluntary recalls, do you two believe that fda should have to rely upon the company's goodwill to do that when the public's health iat risk? >> no. >> no.
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>> now, one of the things that we know is that the legislation like the house bill that we've been talking about would give the food and drug administration the power to require the recall of a contaminatedfood that is needed. do you think that would be a good idea for food safety for consumers in this country? >> it would be a start. >> now, miss lewis, you spent a lot of time talking about the incredible impact that your illness from this salmonella contamination had on your quality of life. >> absolutely. >> and i think there's this great misperception in the public that these symptoms that people deal with from salmonella contination, are like a minor case of intestinal flu >> no. it was so severe, i didn't even want to leave my house. i didn't even want to go to work. i work right across the street. i didn't want to take my kids to school. to be blunt, you don't want to sneeze or cough.
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you -- it's miserable. life as you know it completely changes. >> and y don't even nt to move? >> oh. you can't move because you're in such physical pain from the stomach cramps and you have like your whole body head to toe, is in agony. i was in fetal position for i don't know how long. i couldn't even move. >> you talked about the need to insert something called a pick line into your biceps. can you tell us more about what that was and what it was designed to do? >> yeah. absolutely. i was so dehydrated they could not find a vain to insert an iv in and they needed to get antibiotics, steroids and fluid into me as quickly as they could. and my doctor ggested a pick line and it goes right here in your arm and once it goes in, they do an x-ray to make sure that the line is actually properly inserted into your heart and, you know, to my knowledge once it goes in, it's a pretty permanent port and i have czars from it and i will
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always have those scars. it was something i had to do otherwise i would not be able to have the medication i needed. >> and miss lobato, giving you the chance to make the same type of comnt, what was this like for you on a daily basis to deal with the symptoms from your salmonella contamination? >> well, you're just so severely sick and as she said, you really can't go very far from the bathroom and you're just -- you're so tired you're so fatigued, worn out, you see the bed and you just want to flop in it. another end result is that you really -- you have a hard time trusting food. >> let's talk about that briefly. did you -- do you remember having a duck egg, miss lobato? >> no, i don't think so.
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>> in the 1920s and 30s, duck eggs were more pop pla than chicken eggs, a result of a salmonella problem with those eggs they basically disappeared from the american table. as a result of those problems, there were many food safety bills that were passed to address the problem and try to protect consumers. we need to bring that same level of focus in 2010 and protect consumers from these foodborne illnesses and thank you for your testimony. >> thank you. >> questions, please? >> thank you m chairman. again, thanks for being with us today. having been one that had food poisoning twice, a lot of us go to a lot of events and you eat what they put out in front of you and i can commiserate with you on what happened because i know for two to three days in my case, i know i was down and you're absolutely right, you don't want to get too far from home
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i can really em fa thize with you on that. and your background sounds like my mother's. she grew up on a 100 acre farm on ohio and they had cows and petition a pigs and chickens and my mom to this day still likes brown eggs the best. it's one of those things that our agriculture has changed through the years. i've got to ask this question of both of you. in reading your testimony and hearing you ta about it. and as it's been brought up about that you didn't prepare the food, i have to ask you this, what is rattlesnake cake and how is that prepared? is that something that -- is it raw, baked, fried? how is that prepared? >> this is kind of -- a bit of an odd -- exotic restaurant. it's built like a fort. and they specialize in meats of, well, supposedly early -- the 1800s, early 1900s a they have
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elk and buffalo and bison and all kinds of things. but one of the appetizers is ratt rattlesnake cake. it comes like a little crab cake, small. they apparently boil the rattlesnake for six hours or something and then they grind it up, and it's with bread crumbs and eggs, and spices, hold it all together. and it comes in a little plate as an appetizer and had some green sauce on the top of it. relish, garnish. and i understand that that's where the raw egg was or the uncooked egg, was in the relish that was on the top. >> so it wasn't the breading that was holding the whole thing together. >> i don't believe so. i'm not re that that's been determined at this point. >> thank you. >> i just wanted to say our farm
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was not a chicken farm, per se. we had all kinds of animals. pigs and chickens. >> sounds like where my mom grew up. miss lewis, with a custard tart, is that -- my wife's not here to help me out on those things, is that something that's baked or what is that? is it -- something raw in there? how is that prepared, do you know? >> from wh i was told, it's li a cheesecake base and the bakery that made it, they always use a pastorized egg solution and that day they happened to run out of that and started using whole eggs and so that's where the salmonella came from, was the whole eggs. but to my knowledge it is like a baked kind of dessert and then the -- to a certain point so it still stays like a custard. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you. >> questions please? >> thanks, mr. chairman.
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this restaurant, the fort, is a fort that's been around for many, many years and as miss lobato pointed out, this was a restaurant where they even had a big event when the g-8 came to denver some years ago. and so what i think miss lobato is trying to say is, this kind of contamination can happen anywhere. even at the very nicest restaurants or just little places and that's what concerns all of us. i want to ask both of you, miss lobato, the food you ate was in i think july 11th, around the first part of july, correct? >> july 10th. >> and miss lewis, the food that you ate was in -- at the end of may. >> that's correct. >> that was maybe six weeks apart between the two of you when you had those. do you think that -- and, of course, the recall didn't happen until late august. soo you think that's an
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unreasonable amount of time to identify the source of the contamination and to get these products off the shelves? >> well, you know, it's funny my sister stacy and i were number one and number two in all of california and for her and i to be the first and second, you know, to me it slijs a long time. to the person who's number 500 it happed maybe a couple weeks later when they found out. so, being the first and second person, of course it's going to seem like a longer period of time than it would to somebody who got sicklater. >> but what i'm saying is, what you scribed was the bakery thatade those tarts, had used a different kind of egg solution that day. theoretically, iwouldn't have been that hard to figure out that was different and then to look where those eggs came back, came from, and trace it back to e farm in iowa, right? >> true. like i said before, there's also ten things on my plate for dinner, ten things in my salad,
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appetizer. so, in fact, it comes from x, y or z it's hard to tell at that time until you start actually pulling out everything and researching it. so as they start researching it then i do feel you know what i mean, it was done appropriately. you can't tell if it's this or this because there's so many different components to what you receive at a banquet. >> would you be surprised to know we can tell if it's this or this and if you have a traceability system you can trace it because i mean part of the problem we have now, is that the food and drug administration, as we -- as you've told mr. brayly, they don't have mandatory recall authority and we don't have traceability, so it is harder to figure out where the components come from, but technologically, we have the ability throughout our food industry to be able to trace where things came from. so if they had taken all of the components on your plate, and they had been able to trace them
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back, it would have moved much more quickly. does that make sense to you? >> that seems appropriate, yes. >> and did anybody else from that graduation party get sick besides you and your sister? >> there was to my knowledge another gentleman that got sick as well. we were at the graduation banquet and the next night a prom and people from that prom -- >> also got sick. >> yeah. so, you know, you had a group of people that got sick. we saw this with some of the other outbreaks as well, the peanut butter and other ones. where lots of people were getting sick and when you see a big group like that getting sick, it's something that the state health officials really pay attention to. >> absolutely. >> and miss lobato, did you want to add to that? >> i just wanted to say that the department of health for jefferson county and for denver were on my case while i was in the hospital. they called three days in and
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wanted to know what i had eaten at the restaurant, what i had eaten for a week before. so i was very impressed at how fast they were on the situation. >> right. you know what, we've been finding the last few years with these food born illness outbreaks, oftentimes it's the public health officials who identify it. they're the fit ones. but because we don't have a modern food safety and tracing system, it takes many weeks to then track down where that came from. so if you had the components of our legislation that we passed in a -- sometimes you hear us sniping up here but we actually passed this bill in a bipartisan way through the house, and if you had that in place, once those state officials identified what it was, it would be a lot easier than to trace it back to a source and it would eliminate many new cases of the illness because you could get the recall
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going much more quickly. thank you. thank you both for coming again. >> thank you. 1234 mr. doyle for questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. miss lewis, thank you for your testimony and miss lobato, happy anniversary and thank you. you know, i appreciate the fact that you come here today because it's important we put a face on these problems. chairman said earlier, people talk all the time about this government regulation and let's get the government off our backs and, you know, no more regulation, like we sit here every day thinking of ways to harass businesses and make them lose money and go out of business. the reality is, the fact that most americans can take for granted that when they turn their water spigot on, the water they drink isn't going to poison them or the food they eat is going to be safe or the air they breath in theireighborhood isn't going to cause them grave harm, a lot of is due to the fact that things like this
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happen. and one of the ways we address that is to come up with regulations to make sure that when food is being produced it's done in a certain way. there's standards in place. the same with how our water is treated and what you can put in the water and put into the air. and you know, sometimes you can have the best regulations in the world and if you don't have it enforced, if there's not proper oversight, even good regulations fall sho. we saw that in the gulf of mexico not too long ago with the terrible oil spill. i hope americans see this today, they see two people and they look at both of you and hear your stories and say, that could be my grandmother, that could be my mom, my sister, and people realize there's a reason for this and that yeah, we do need good regulations and we need good oversight. and when everybody does things the way they're supposed to do it, people can make money and businesses can thrive and we can all feel good about the fact that what's put on our tables or when we go to a restaurant, that
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something terrible isn't going to happen to us after we leave that restaurant. that's really the purpose of the hearing today iso get to the bottom of these things and i thin more than anything we'll hear today, it will be your personal stories that will touch many of the people in the u.s. senate and whoever's got that hold over there. the senate is a strange institution. one of these guys can hold up legislation no matter what it is. i had a bill that passed this year, that a senator had a hold on, so i went over and talked to him and he listed his hold and then another put a hold on the bill. so, i went or and talked to that senator. he lifted his hold. then i was told there's a secret hold on the bill and now we don't know which senator has the hold on it. it's a strange institution over there. and sometimes it takes stories like this to move them to action. so thank you for coming today and helping us out. and helping your fellow citizens in america have safe food to eat. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you. >> thankou.
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>> thank you, mr. doyle. seeing no further members ask questions i want to thank you again for coming and for helping us out and i know you came here on your own free will and with your own expense so we appreciate it. on behalf of the congress and the american people, thank you for being ere. thank you. >> thank you. >> mr. chairman -- >> mr. burguess. >> wonder if i might be recognized for the purpose of entering into the cole low question with the chairman. >> sure. go ahead. >> mr. chairman, is the t true that under committee rule 3 subsection d under questioning the right to interrogate a witness before the committee or any of its subcommittees alternate between the majority and minority meers each member shall be entitled to five minutes of interpretationgation of the witnesses is that your understanding of the rule? >> to question witnesses that is correct. >> five minutes of time was to be controlled by the ranking member of the committee and 30
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seconds of that time were taken from me. could i ask the chairman's indulgence to restore that time onhe next panel of witnesses? >> no, mr. burguess. you werenstructed that there was a -- your unanimous consent was denied and you tried to violate wishes of this subcommittee by going back door, you said you were done with your questions, it's not unusual of members to end less than five minutes, we yield back our time and move on. i asked you not to read it. you insisted upon reading it. i let you read until your five minutes expired anthen muted your mike. so you had your five minutes. you chose to use your last 30 seconds or whatever to read a statement. i'm not going to give you more time with the next witnesses. >> mr. chairman, with all due respect, you muted my mike immediately upon my beginning to read the statement and further, in regards to that controlling of five minutes as you know it's
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a well established pattern, especially in this committee that members may use their time to talk aut whatever they wish. sometimes they offer sill little low questions that are think are entirely far afield but i don't object and i don't recall anyone ever being treated the way of having their microphone silenced. i look upon that as a period of censorship you exercised and i feel very strongly abouthis that i think tt was wrong and i think this committee needs to rectify it. >> the record is clear what happened. if we have to read it back later we can. you had your five minutes. even after the objections of this committee, you decided to go ahead and read a statement which you asked unanimous consent to b submitted, members on our side objected. you should not then if you wanted to follow the rules of the house you would not have tried to back door it by reading it in. i let you go. excuse me, don't interrupt me. i let you go until your five
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minutes was up. you had your full five minutes. this has happened before. i've been here 18 years. in fact, even up here, i could mute your mike becauset says private and mute all. this is not the first time it happened. it's happened many times. yohave to go by the rules of this committee. and by the ruling of the chair. you cannot take and make your own rules as we go along. you are violating the wishes of the committee, violating the rules of this subcommittee and you are violating the property quorum the way we conduct hearings. my job, my responsibility is to move this hearing forward, conduct it in a fair and impartial manner i did that. >> i would submit that rule 3, subparagraph d was violated by the
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ranking member. >> we're not going to agree. so let's move on. i am just waiting for people to settle down a little bit. do any of you wish to be represented by counsel? press that button and give us the name of your counsel. if you would like to consult with your counsel, you have the right to do so. else? >> john bode. >> mr. bethel. press the button in front of you, sir. >> yes.
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i have crown sul here. >> would you state the counsel's name? >> tom green. >> okay. and again if you wish to consult with them during questions, you may. but the questions have to come from you or the answers have to come from you. i'm sorry. and mr. manscow? >> no. >> no counsel with you. okay. all right. so we have that on the record. again, any time during the questioning you wish to consult with your counsel you may. raise your right hand to take the oath. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give to be the truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth in the matter pending before this committee? >> yes. >> yes, sir. p. >> let the record reflect each witness answered in the affirmative. they are now under oath. we will now hear a five-minute opening statement from our witnesses. you may submit a longer
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statement for inclusion in the hearing record. so mr. decoster, on my far left, if you want to start. your opening statement. please do. press the green light there on that microphone and pull it forward and we can hear you. go ahead. >> commissioner, mr. chairman, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify. my name is austin decoster. i go by jack. my son peter and i are here to answer your questions. we -- >> egg industry must be -- >> can we ask the room be cleared. >> [ inaudible ]. decoster and your cohorts are a piece of the larger picture. salmonella poisoning is present in all egg farms as admitted by decoster and his lawyer.
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additionally, 230 million chickens are killed each year to the eglin industry. >> i would ask you crease and desist, please, sir. the hearing must continue. >> all eggs kill. all eggs kill. all eggs kill. all eggs kill. all eggs kill. all eggs kill. . >> okay. >> we resume these hearings. it's not unusual for us to have a few outbursts whether it's on this orside or that side. go ahead, please. >> okay. we were horrified to learn that our eggs may have made people sick. we apologized to everyone who may have been sickened by eating our eggs. i have prayed several times each
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day for all of these people, for improved health. for generations our family has been producing eggs and i have spent my life as a chicken farmer. i've been blessed to be able to work with my sons on our farms as well. over the years, we have grown to be pretty big in producing eggs. unfortunately, we got big quite a while before we stopped acting like we were small. what i mean by that is, we were big before we started adopting sophisticated procedures to be sure we met all of the government requirements. while we were big, but still acting like we were small, we got into trouble with government requirements several times. i am sorry for those failings.
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i accept the responsibility for those mistakes in our operations. eventually i realized that to put those problems behind us, will have to become very good at meeting all of the government requirements. so for about ten years now, we have been focused on doing just that. we are moving forward. we have put in place effective employee training, systems, additional monitoring and control procedures, to assure compliance with government requirements. when necessary, we hired top experts to be sure the procedures are right. also, in critical areas, including reduction of salmonella, we have been going beyond government requirements in an effort to improve our
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operations. with all these systems, we have made important strides and i'm proud of our work. still these challenges never stop. >> does that complete -- go ahead. does that complete your testimony? >> yes. that completes it. >> okay. >> mr. chairman, my name is peter decoster, the chief operating officer for wright county egg of iowa. in other words, i run the wright county egg farms. permit me to begin with a short overview with wright county egg farming operation in iowa. 350 people are employed at our iowa farms. we have five farms with 73 barns, each about 33,000 square feet in size. almost all of the barns are a two-story structure with the hens located in the upper part of the barn. in all wright county has 5.8 million laying hence.
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our farms produce approximately 2.3 million dozen eggs per week for about 1.4 billion eggs per year. in addition, wright county egg operating the barns at the hillandale farm near iowa with ten barns and approximately 1 million laying hens, producing more than 435,000 dozen eggs per week. each of the six farms we operate is at a different location. no two farms are less than one mile from another. in addition to our farms, at a separate location wright county egg operates a feed mill which produces our poultry feeds. it was inspected by iowa with no major deficiencies found. the inspection report was transmitted to us by the fda in may. some background on the salmonella and how our egg farms are monitored for the bacteria may be useful.
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regretly se is a fact of life in the egg industry. that is why all egg cartons bear the safe food handling instructions and fda model code instructions that eggs be thoroughly cooked. like everyone else, we have fought se for a long time. we have not always been successful. today, we have extensive se reduction practice that were unknown in previous years. to protect against se contamination our farm follows stringent standards for egg production, processing and transportation to ensure both the quality and safety of eggs when they reach our customers. in addition, the following food safety guidelines and the new fda egg safety rules, our farm also established in july of 2009 a voluntary overall salmonella intervention and risk reduction program which sets specific protocols in the areas of chicks and breeder flocks, biosecurity,
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cleaning and disinfecting between flocks, management, vaccination, and refrigeration. further, wright county egg has been working with two top scientists to enhas our biosecurity and bird health needs. they provide outside counsel to design effective programs, monitor their performance, and make operational requirements as necessary. of particular potential assistance to your investigation, dr. charles hallbaker has advised us on bird matters. he is recognized as one of the world's leading authority in se control and i appreciate his presence in the hearing room today. as a tool in our se production program, wright county began vaccations of our flocks. that vaccination program and the volunteer environmental testing program that guided it and other operational decisions, is outlined in our written testimony.
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so we have had extensive se reduction programs designed to meet all regulatory requirements and go substantially beyond requirements of additional measures, notably our se vaccination program. so we were stunned to learn that our eggs appeared to be responsible for an se disease outbreak. in mid august fda requested that wright county egg undertake a voluntary recall of our eggs. we promptly did so in cooperation with fda. our first recall was announced on august 13th, 2010. which involved three of our farms. then our second recall was announced on august 18th of 2010, and addressed eggs from other two farms. an extensive food safety investigation followed. at this time we cannot be absolutely certain of the root cause of the contamination of the eggs we produced, however we have we view most likely root cause of contamination to be the meat and bone meal that was an ingredient in our feed. at this point i would appreciate a projection of the first slide
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we provided to the committee. meat and bone meal was produced at a rendering facility part of the production process in rendering involves cooking carcasses to a temperature that would eliminate se. however, as always in food safety matters, there is a potential for recontamination, either at the rendering facility and the transportation from the rendering facility or subsequently after the meet and bone meal is delivered to wright county egg. in particular bone meal that entered our bin where the ingredient could have been contaminated the bin and additional meat and bone meal subsequently added to the bin. the next slide. not only is this sus spish spigs consistent with the fda test results but it also is consistent with the fact that the only hillandale farms operation to produce eggs that tested positive for the se contamination was the aldsen farm which received its feed
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from the wright county eggs feed mill. all of the flocks that had been proven to be the source of this se outbreak received feed from the wright county eggs feed mill. my written testimony outlines the exhaustive changes that wright county has undertaken to take every precaution against this ever happening again. by focusing on our flocks, our feed, and our worker biosecurity protocols we intend to demonstrate our commitment to the production of eggs of high quality and safe. we look forward to answering your questions in an accurate understanding of what caused this foodborne disease outbreak might be achieved. thank you. >> thank you. mr. bethel, your opening statement, please, sir. >> mr. chairman, i do not have -- >> turn on the mike, please. >> mr. chairman, i do not have an opening statement. >> okay. thank you. >> mr. manco. >> mr. chairman, dr. burguess
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and other subcommittee members. my name is dwyane. i am hillandale farms of iowa incorporated production representative. i grew up in minnesota and upon graduation from high school spent nearly 13 years working on a family farm with my father and brother in hillandale, minnesota. in the late 1980s i entered college to study business administration. while completing my studies in 1991, i learned about feed and poultry production while working for an independent owned feed company. after graduation, i continued working with feed and poultry flocks with a farmer's cooperative in oakland, minnesota. based upon cooperative. based on my knowledge of poultry flo flocks, i was invited to manage the farmer's cooperative when it began construction in 1998. i was the general manager at the iva facility in west union, iowa, it wiuntil it was purchas
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december of 2007. i left in 2008 and returned at the request of hillendale farms of iowa in march of 2010. i no you serve as hillendale's production representative at the west union facility. it will probably help our discussion today if i divine a few industry terms. when i talk about egg production, i mean the first of three steps in getting eggs to our customers. egg production encompasses every aspect of farming and raising the hens up until the eggs are ready for processing. the next step, egg processing, involving cleaning, grading, and packaging the eggs. the final phase which involves marketing and distribution has traditionally been hillendale's area of expertise. in order to get fresh quality eggs to market, hillendale must be able to rely on good production and good processing. from 2008 until recently, hillendale relied on wright county for production in iowa.
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in its 50 years of existence, i believe that hillendale farms, while not perfect, historically has had a record and reputation for supplying the nation with safe, quality eggs. in fact, to the best of my knowledge, hillendale farms had never been involved in a recall until three weeks ago when the fda told us that seven people had become ill from salmonella at a mexican restaurant that received hillendale, iowa, eggs. there are many other potential sources of salmonella contaminations in restaurants, and we were, to be honest, shocked by the allegation. during the prior four months we had shipped about 170 million eggs from iowa and it was difficult to understand why fda was saying that our eggs were responsible for seven people sick at one restaurant. the recall has, however, forced hillendale to take a hard look at our operations and will in the long run make our operations better. on august 20th, we voluntarily recalled the relevant eggs,
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diverted all other eggs from those facilities to breaking facilities and have been cooperating with the fda, state officials, our customers, and this subcommittee ever since. and even if the source of the salmonella illness is never confirmed, where we have fallen short in iowa we are committed to improving our operations. at alden, where hillendale farms has no ownership interest, we have terminated our marketing relationship with its owner wright county because we were disappointed in the test results there. at the west union facility, we have redoubled our safety efforts and fully addressed all of the issues identified on the fda's 483 report. we would like to emphasize, however, that no egg from west union has tested positive for se. nonetheless, hillendale has retained the former associate commissioner of foods at fda and the former head of food safety at several fortune 200 companies including h.j. heinz, campbell's
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soups, and tricon restaurants to conduct an intensive assessment of food safety at our west union facility and offer recommendations. you have our commitment that we will implement any and all of these recommendations. moreover, hillendale farms will continue to cooperate with all government officials, including the subcommittee and i look forward to answering any questions that you may have. thank you. >> thank you. that concludes testimony. we'll open up for questions. i will begin. mr. breath ethel, following the outbreak of the salmonella, officials inspected our facilities in seven days. during the course of the fda's investigation, your employee, who is providing testimony to the committee today, accompanied the agents as they conducted the inspection. i'd like to ask you about an e-mail you received on august 21st, 2010. in this e-mail you received, he
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summarized his notes from the inspection. he wrote, barn seven, put lids on the dead chicken barrels to reduce investigator access. barn eight, wet manure due to water leaks. didn't say it needed to be removed, but they didn't like it. barn nine, saw old dead birds in a few cages and old chicken heads on egg belts. here is my question and again you're only oath, sir, mr. bethel, prior to receiving the e-mail were you aware of the conditions he noted? >> i respectfully decline to answer the question based on the protection afforded me under the fifth amendment of the constitution. >> mr. bethel, i understand that you're invoking your right against self-incrimination which is your prerogative under the fifth amendment. is it your intention to invoke the right to refuse any questions during this hearing? >> yes. >> okay. then i will refrain from asking
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you additional questions about this subject matter and request that other members also refrain from asking you further questions. mr. decoster -- i'm sorry, mr. burgess? >> just simply will i be allowed to question mr. bethel? >> you can, but if -- i mean, i think he's made it pretty clear he's going to take the fifth amendment to any questions so -- >> reserve the right to question the witness. >> all right, you reserve the right during your time. mr. jack decoster, if you will, in your testimony you admit that your facilities had problems in the past. that's indisputable. there have been several outbreaks associated with your eggs in two states, specifically maryland and new york have been mentioned in which your eggs were banned. your response in your written testimony you indicated that when you were small and that you
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have put those problems behind us was what you said. my question to you is this, if you've cleaned up your operations, as you say, why did this outbreak happen? >> mr. congressman, if i could answer that -- >> that's directed at your father, so let him answer if he can. can you answer that question? >> well, i'll try to answer it, but i'm having trouble hearing. >> okay. >> could you speak up a little bit more, please? >> sure. in your testimony you admitted your facilities have had problems, that's indisputable. there have been several outbreaks associated with your eggs in two states we've heard from today, maryland and new york where your eggs were actually banned. your response and in your written testimony you said this all occurred when decoster farms were small and that you've put those problems behind you. so my question is, if you've cleaned up your operations as you say, why did this outbreak
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occur? >> well, mr. chairman, this is a complicated subject. i have to take it piece by piece kind of. would that be okay? >> sure. let's go piece by piece. take the document binder right there. go to binder number -- tab number 16, and we'll go through it piece by piece. >> 16? >> look under tab 16. in august the fda inspectors went into your facilities. the conditions they found were appalling. let me show you some photographs from the inspection. it's a photograph i put up during my opening statement of decaying chickens in your egg laying facilities. you said you're following sophisticated procedure to keep your facilities clean. how do you explain dead chickens in your hen laying houses?
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>> mr. congressman -- >> wait a minute, i'm sorry. i'm talking to mr. decoster, jack decoster. >> he doesn't run the operation. i do. >> i know, but he testified he cleaned eed -- when you were s you didn't have these problems. do you want to answer? >> yes, sir. >> how do you account for dead chickens then? >> there's eight dead hens here in the back of the building, and, you know, it's kind of like a large city with 80,000 birds in the building. >> sure. >> occasionally we will have some mortality and these are taken to the back of the barn. now, our policy is to have these in a barrel. >> but they weren't at the time, were they? >> no, sir, they're not. >> go through the other photos, the mice along the conveyor belt for the eggs. >> would this not be acceptable -- >> go through there. look at the manure coming out of the building from the foundations, the door. this isn't something that just happened overnight.
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that manure pile is about seven to eight feet tall. it's seeping out through cracks. so number one, you have too much manure. it's flowing out of your buildings. you got cracks. you got dead mice. you got dead chickens, maggots. that stuff just didn't happen. i agree you're a big operation, but with big operations some big responsibilities. how did you clean up your act if you started clean an now you cleaned up your act? >> in the case -- if i could just kind of go one at a time here on the photos. the one that shows the door being gapped open with the manure, these houses, as you can see, it's a house that's basically 18 foot at the eaves. it's a two-story structure. >> sure. >> the hen population is in the top story. the building is designed to have these manure pits and i know this is -- has got a lot of press, but this is a standard practice in the industry to have manure underneath the birds and
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then to be taken out. the problem we had here, the manure accumulation in the pit i agree with you is not overnight. the doors coming open like this is basically an overnight problem. the weather through this past winter and this past spring in iowa has been unbelievably, the likes we've never seen before, and the local co-op who takes our manure out for us was just behind. they had got behind. i take full responsibility -- >> or maybe you have too many birds in the house? maybe you have too many laying hens in the house that the house can't handle all the manure coming down snp do you have too many birds? >> no, sir, the house has got 80,000 birds. it's designed for 101,000. the reason we have 80,000 is we follow the uep animal welfare guidelines. >> okay. >> but this problem was cleaned up that very day that this picture was taken. what the picture doesn't show
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you is there's a manure crew on site taking this manure out. >> did the decoster farms, you as operating officer, you knew about the fda putting out a final rule in july. did you comment while that rule was being developed? did you comment, submit comments to the fda on how you thought the rule should be? >> i don't believe i commented on -- the rule that came out in '09. >> you didn't need the rule to know this was unacceptable. >> this doesn't have much to do with the rule. >> i realize that. >> the problem i have with this is not the manure in the pit but the fact that the door is gapped open and it can allow mice inside our facility. >> there's also another photo of manure coming out of the side. there's holes in your building and the mice would have been going in but they couldn't get in because the manure was going out. my time is expired. mr. burgess for questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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>> mr. bethel, i understand you've asserted your privilege but nevertheless i want to ask you one question. please feel free to answer it if you wish. an e-mail dated august 31st, 2010, from you to john glessner states, quote, hilldale needs to totally disassociate itself from jack and it has to be real. hillendale has a good business base, but it will be all gone if i don't move quickly and i will not try to deceive the public, close quote. first, do you recall sending this e-mail? is the reference to jack, jack decoster, and further why did you state that hillendale needs to disassociate itself from jack decoster and why did you feel a need to state that you will not try to deceive the public? had someone previously asked you to deceive the public and if so, would you please share with the committee who that would be? >> i respectfully decline to answer the question based on --
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>> sir, mr. bethel, would you please turn on the mike and pull it forward and then read your statement again. >> i respectfully decline to answer the question based on the protection afforded me under the fifth amendment of the constitution. >> i appreciate that as the chairman did not excuse you as a witness, i felt obligated to ask you that question because it was an important part of our investigation. so mr. decoster, and either mr. decoster, let me ask you this. you have seen the photographs. we've talked about the photographs taken by the food and drug administration inspectors at your farms to document the observations made in form 483 and show what appear to be astonishingly unsanitary conditions. how would you characterize these photographs and do they warrant the alarm and concern being voiced here today and if not, share with us why not. >> yes, sir, thank you. and i haven't looked at all of them in detail, mr. congressman,
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but the rodents that were brought up in the 483, if we could take that one first, there was 31 rodents that was counted by fda, and those 41 rodents were found going through over 107 barns that we own. these barns cover approximately 66 acres of ground just on the upper level, not counting the manure pits. >> rather than going through and dissecting out the data, do you think the alarm that has been evidenced here today, is that warranted? >> i would like to invite each and every member of this board to come and view -- >> i wish we had had that opportunity also, mr. decoster but it wasn't afforded to us by the majority. let's go on. i may submit some questions to
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you in writing but as you see the chairman has a pretty quick gavel with me. prior to the fda ag rule there were no federal requirements, testing requirements, for salmonella at egg production facilities, but some states and some industry groups voluntarily set guidelines. if the salmonella testing was not required by law, why -- when and why did you start testing for salmonella? >> our reason for testing for salmonella, we first originally started testing to see if we may have it. we didn't have any trace bags, we didn't have any reported illnesses. there was no government agency that says that we should test. we tested voluntarily because we were trying to learn if we had the problem and then if we did have the problem, what would be the best practices that we could set forward -- >> i'm going to interrupt you again. i'm not trying to be rude but let me just suggest that if you took 72 swabs in one day and all
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but 8 tested positive, you've got a problem. >> yes. >> can i suggest that to you? >> well, you can suggest it, sir. but i'd like to talk to dr. chuck holfecker. he's the expert on this. he's been guiding us -- >> let me submit that to you in writing because i want to get an additional question in. prior to the egg rule when your company received a positive environmental result for salmonella, what corrective action did you take and did you automatically test the eggs as a precautionary measure? >> the results -- we've been taking this kind of as over a period of time we've been learning more, been working with the doctor, but we've implemented things such as vaccinating and then vaccinating the flocks twice as we learn more. we've eliminated mot ed molting system and -- >> i'm about to run out of time.
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when did the fda come to you and suggest that you needed to recall your eggs? do you remember the calendar date? >> i'm going to say the first initial contact was a phone call, and that would have been august 12th. >> and what date did you institute the recall? >> the very following day. we received that call that late afternoon and the very next day we issued the recall. zproo. >> were you required to do so? >> no, sir. it was a voluntary measure. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i appreciate your indulgence. >> thank you. does any other member wish to ask mr. bethel a question since i'm about to excuse him. i would ask members to refrain from asking him a question. the reason why i did not dismiss you after because mr. burgess was insisting on asking you a question. it's not -- because if i wouldn't have given him the opportunity, he would have accused me of censorship. i thought i'd give him that
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opportunity. does any other member? seeing no other response, mr. beth bethel, you certainly invoked your rights and that's your right and privilege and thank you for being here, but you will be dismissed from this panel. >> thank you. mr. waxman for questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. jack decoster, how long have you been in this business of chickens and eggs? >> since 1949, september 5th when my dad died. >> so you inherited the business from your father as your son is doing the business with you. >> yes. he had 125 hens. i took them over. >> now, you've had a history of over 30 years of problems with salmonella infected eggs, and you had a pretty sordid record.
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you said it was because you were a small operation and you got bigger and you still operated as if you were a small operation. you had problems in the '90s and you had problems in maine and maryland. now you're in iowa, and you don't want to have any problems anymore, so you said you really tried to change your operation. you modernized and cleaned up the facility, but that's not what the record indicates. fda conducted an inspection. they did this last august. i want to read you some passages, ask you to respond. they found, quote, you failed to achieve satisfactory rodent and pest control as evidenced by the following, live and dead flies too numerous to count, the live flies were on and around egg belts, feed, and shell eggs.
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in addition, live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed. does this sound like a clean facility to you? >> mr. congressman, if you don't mind i'd like to answer those 483 questions for iowa. >> well, i'm happy to hear from you because you're very much involved in running the operation now, but your father has been in this business for longer than you have, and he wanted to make sure he's living up to a higher standard. i want to know if he feels this is a higher standard. >> okay. well, higher standards in the state of maine where i live -- >> i'm not asking about maine. i'm asking about the report of the inspection from the fda. you were determined to run a clean operation, and they found all these dead flies and maggots and other problems. >> okay. >> does that bother you? >> it bothers me a lot, but i feel like, peter, we have a certain way we handle flies, a
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certain way we handle mice, and we have hired maxi nolan who is considered an expert. >> when did you hire him? >> maxi has been coming out to our facility since last summer, and he set up our fly and rodent program. >> i want to read to you another finding from the fda, and you may want to consider firing this guy. the fda said you failed to take steps to ensure that there is not introduction or transfer of se, salmonella, into our among the poultry houses. that was evidenced by the following observations. uncaged birds, chickens having escaped were observed in the egg laying operation in contact with the egg laying birds. the uncaged birds were using the manure which was approximately eight feet high, to access the egg laying area. what this means is that the
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chickens had escaped the hen house. they're walking in the manure pits and then mixing in with the caged birds. do you agree with the fda that this is a violation of appropriate safety standards? or procedures? >> we're find of jumping around a little bit we're going to rodents to flies to loose chickens, but if we want to stick with the loose chicken for a minute, they observed two or three loose chickens that had got out of their cages in a couple different houses and in the course of our barnmen doing their work, they will access the cage for whether it be a sick hen, a water nipple that may be leaking or need repair, and a chicken can escape when they open the door or if they forget to close the door completely, a chicken can escape. these chickens -- >> mr. decoster, let me interrupt you to say this, you've had problems in the past, right? over 30 years of problems in
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different states. you had a call from the fda to recall your eggs and you voluntarily did that, and then the inspection took place. >> yes. >> that's when the fda found all these problems. you've claimed that you're going to modernize and clean up your facility. but it doesn't appear that you have modernized and cleaned up your facilities. it sounds like to me that both of you are refusing to take responsibility for a very poor facility. according to the fda inspections, they found all these problems, you would think after you were called on to recall the eggs you would have made sure your facility was cleaned up. maybe you did. maybe this is as clean as you got it, but it still looked pretty dirty. how do you respond to that? >> well, hopefully i'll be allowed to finish this time, but i mean we're jumping all over the place. you're not giving me fair time to answer the question, and then -- >> then i'm going to have your
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father respond because he talked about how he wanted to clean up the facility. and i want to ask him to tell us whether he approves the conditions and how his son operates the facility. and after this fda inspection, all of these problems they just found, after the recall already started, do you think this is a satisfactory way for the facility to be run? >> mr. congressman -- >> i've asked your father. i've asked your father, and i'm asking the questions. mr. jack decoster? >> yes. i follow what you're saying, okay. however, this is a very big operation. we have a certain way we go about running it. regardless -- >> you had problems when you ran it that way and you were going to clean it up. so is this where you are now is you feel cleaned up and adequate? >> sir, please, let me talk, okay? we have a certain way that our
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barnman goes into the chicken house. he has a certain way he does this work, okay? he starts in the morning. he pulls out the dead chickens. he spends a certain amount of time checking the egg belts, taking the dead chickens out, checking the water, chickieckine lights. then he goes and he sweeps all of the barnes. he goes into the pits. he checks the leaking water is coming down from upstairs into the pit. he checks loose birds in the pit. he puts lightbulbs in if there's any missing lightbulbs. he's supposed to be checking this door that was pushed out. that door would not stay like that very long. >> mr. decoster, we only have a certain amount of time and my time is pretty much over but i do want to tell you this. >> i'm sorry. >> it's hard for me to reconcile your words that you wanted to clean up and you did clean up the facility with the record before the committee.
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the conditions in your facility were not clean. they were not sanitary. they were filthy, and given the 30-year record of violations it appears that you are a habitual violator. for you to come before us and say it's the feed, we had nothing to do with it, it's hard for me to believe and accept on -- at face value. my time is expired but i just want you to know my thoughts about it. >> gentleman's time has expired. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. mr. decoster, peter, looking at this report, this 483, the date issued was august the 30th, how often has the fda been inspecting? >> that's the first time the fda has been to our facilities. >> any of your facilities.
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>> well, for the barns. >> okay. >> chicken barns. >> let me ask, is the usda on your premises at all times at the different houses? >> the usda/ams does grading of our processing plants, all of our processing facilities. we have the voluntary program of usda which we incur the cost. >> okay. but again, i know i have been in different houses and facilities, and there's usually somebody from usda. is there a usda person on the premises part of the time, all of the time? >> usda would be in the processing plant during the hours of operation generally from 6:00 in the morning until whenever we finish in the afternoon. >> do you have the department of agricultural in iowa inspecting out there? does the department of agricultural in iowa inspect
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facilities? >> no, sir, the dnr would inspect any environmental-type issues, but the department of ag has never been out to inspect. >> what's your dnr do? >> it stands for the department of natural resources -- >> right, but what's their role on the farm then? >> their role is basically on any environmental issue. if manure threatens the water of the states would be one of the major ones. >> when they -- do they do like an inspection of the houses, around the facility? do they do water quality tests? i come from the largest county in the state of ohio that has ditches. i got 3,000 miles of ditches in my home county and so are they doing water qualiul teslity tes? >> the only thing they would inspect on the facility is a complaint or if there was an annual inspection on the lagoons. >> okay. and talk about like with the
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lagoon, and i heard what you said about it was a wet spring out there and i know it was a wet spring in ohio. trying to get crops out. what's your manure management plan? do you have to file that with someone? >> yes. there's manure management plans on every one in iowa. because we do the sale of our manure with the local co-op who use it is for fertilizer, they have the manure management plan. >> who do you file the plan with? >> the dnr. >> dnr. okay. because i know we just talked about looking at water quality and things like that, does the dnr then do any inspection around the buildings then on th that? >> not on a regular basis, but the dnr i guess after reading
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some of the articles in the newspaper came up and did an inspection around our layer barns and said everything looked okay. i haven't heard anything more. >> let me ask you then, when you say not that often, how often would they come around from dnr on that end? >> normally under those type circumstances if they're called out to do it. >> so they wouldn't do it on like a six-month or a 12-month basis? >> no. >> now, who hauls -- how often do you have to clean your barns? are your barns deep pit or do you have conveyor or -- >> the majority of our barns are deep pit like the pictures show here but we do have one facility that's a belt battery where the manure is removed on a daily basis and put in another barn. >> and then with the deep pit, how do you get that out? are you using like skidders, bobcats?
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>> yes, skid steers. bobcat would be a brand that's used but they go through these doors shown in the picture. >> how often would they do that? >> our program was to clean every barn every other year. we did that for a measure of fly control, fresh manure you tend to have the better environment for the flies. so we were going with every other year which we have changed that policy last year to remove the manure every year. >> okay. mr. chairman, i think my time has expired and i yield back. >> thank you. questions, please. >> thank you. gentlemen, you were here earlier when i delivered the ode to the iowa egg, and i can tell you i have personally been supporting the iowa egg industry for 53 years and there's no bigger fan of the products you produce, but i also was sitting down to breakfast in a restaurant when i first heard about this story, and i can tell you it literally
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made me sick to my stomach and caused me to order something different on the menu and then i was down at the iowa state fair earlier this year in the varied industries building looking at a lot of very nervous egg producers with the iowa egg council. so i'm going to ask each one of you, do you feel any personal responsibility to the impact that this recall, this massive recall, is having on iowa egg producers? >> it is too bad that this occurred and we do feel sorry for any inconvenience and costs that it has caused the industry. >> i apologize to the two messrs. decoster but it's easier if i refer to your by your first names if that's all right? >> that's fine. >> peter. >> absolutely.
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this is an issue that i feel terrible has occurred and it's affecting our industry. >> jack? >> i feel very bad about it, very bad. it's a horrible thing. >> well, the problem that egg producers in iowa and all over the country are facing is a series of headlines like the one in today's "new york times," an iowa egg farmer and a history of salmonella. "the slangs times" filthy conditions found at egg producers. egg farms violated safety rules. fda details numerous violations at egg farms. egg recall, mouse/fly infestations date back ten years workers say. tainted eggs reveal lapse in state protocol. and the problem that a lot of us have here on this committee is a sense that there is a disconnect between the problems identified in these stories and identified in the fda's investigation and the sense of responsibility, and
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we had two witnesses who testified at the earlier panel who talked about the personal impact that the salmonella contamination had on them. here is the story in today's "new york times." on july th, scores of chronically ill patients in new york city began to fall violently ill with food poisoning from eggs tainted with salmonella. it was like a war zone, said dr. phillip tacey, the doctor on calls a sickness started to rage through the hospital. by the time the outbreak ended, nine people had died and 500 people had become sick. it remaybes the deadliest outbreak in this country attributed to eggs with salmonella. this year the same bacteria sickened thousands of people nationwide. despite the gap of decades, there's a crucial link between the two outbreaks.
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in both cases the eggs came from farms owned by austin j. decoster, one of the country's biggest egg producers. and, jack, i think one of the things that people around the country are asking is if your company's commitment to food safety is as strong as you've indicated in your opening statement to this committee, how is it possible that after all this time we have another decoster egg producer involved in a half billion dollar recall? >> well, the question is complicated, sir. >> i'd like the record to reflect that counsel for the witness has handed him a document. >> congressman, this se happened
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23 years ago in one of our farms in maryland. we destroyed the flocks. after we destroyed the flocks, we cleaned it all out, washed it all up, and then put the new pullets in it, and then it wasn't very long after that that -- after we put the new pullets in which we bought these pullets from a company in indiana, they wasn't ones that we raised or at least not all of the ones we put in the complex, and after we got it all filled up again with new birds, all clean, we thought, and we had also a person from pennsylvania,
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a doctor, coming down to our flocks and testing all of them, reporting that they were okay, and then we had a reason to take a bird or a few birds down to the salisbury laboratory in maryland, and we took them down and they found se in a bird or -- i don't remember too clearly right now, but at least found salmonella in the birds. so then fda came over to our place and way back then fda came over, and they tested every one of our flocks in our chicken houses and if i remember this correctly, this is a long time ago, but we had to take out at least half of all the flocks again. it was a seven-house complex, we had to take at least three to four flocks out.
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we had to wash it all again, and then we filled it back up again, and then as i remember it the next time it was okay. >> mr. chairman, my time has expired but i would ask unanimous consent to submit the editorials i referred to earlier in my questioning. >> without objection. before they're entered, request to see them so if you'd provide them, we'll look at them. without objection we'll put it in. mr. dingell for questions, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and i commend you for this hearing and for the extraordinary leadership you've given in our efforts to reform and to enhance the powers of fda. my questions are going to remind me of a day in 1990 when this subcommittee went into the questions of food safety and,
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indeed, in solomon knell la in eggs. bike to welcome you both, messrs. decoster and i begin my question by saying this. of the food and drug administration staff reports which i ask unanimous consent be inserted in the record, refer to inquiries about your facilities, and they say barns were infested with flies, maggots, and scurrying rodents, mature pile eight feet high in certain areas, leaking mature pits, employees working without protective clothing, and uncaged hens tracking manure from mature pit to other areas of the operation. is that true? >> we've -- if we could take one of these at a time. the comment about the employees -- >> it's either true or not. is it true or is it not true? yes or no? >> i would say that it's
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partially true. >> partially true. well, that's like being partially pregnant. it's pretty hard to do. now, having said this, you were having trouble in the '90s, and it resulted in a calamitous situation at the bird s. kohler memorial hospital in new york just referred to by one of my colleagues. i'm curious here. do you dispute any of the allegations made in the reports by food and drug? yes or no. >> on the 483? >> the reports of the food and drug staff to food and drug. do you dispute any of the statemts

C-SPAN Weekend
CSPAN September 26, 2010 10:30am-1:00pm EDT


TOPIC FREQUENCY Fda 49, Iowa 38, Mr. Decoster 11, Wright 10, Lewis 9, Decoster 8, Usda 7, Salmonella 7, Maryland 6, Bethel 5, Mr. Burguess 5, Coburn 5, Ms. Lewis 5, Colorado 4, Maine 4, Mr. Bethel 4, Jack Decoster 4, Mr. Waxman 4, Mr. Burgess 4, The Iowa 4
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